3. It is actually going to use rockets to land like a real spacecraft, not inflatable balloons. I've always thought what an undignified way for the little rovers to land, bouncing around, making them all dizzy and such. Phoenix's heat-shield will hit the Martain atmosphere at around 12,000 mph. Approximately 7 minutes later it's parachutes will open, then descent rockets cut in reducing the speed to 5.4 mph before landing on 3 legs, now that's the way to land.
2. Phoenix has a built in lab, and a neat robotic arm, get the picture? With its robotic arm Phoenix can dig down below the protective top soil layer to the ice water below, bring the sample to its lab and perform complicated scientific analysis to further NASA's overall Mars science strategy, "Follow The Water".
1. My most favoritist reason I love this mission is, it's going to land the furthest north of any craft on Mars to date, where there is going to be frozen water within reach of the lander's gathering equipment, now isn't that cool. There is one advantage the little rovers have over the lander, lets say there is ice water 40" away from the lander and the lander's robotic arm is only 39" long, well it would suck to be the lander, the rovers would just rove over, but with the lander, it's not like wheels are going to pop out of the landing legs and then rockets pop out of the wheels, although that would be cool, unfortunately the lander is stationary.
Right now 3 Mars orbiters are adjusting their orbits to be at the right place at the right time to be able to observe and record the Phoenix landing as well as trying to determine the ideal landing site for Phoenix, even the rovers are helping out by simulating transmissions from Phoenix for tests with the orbiters.
This coming Wednesday March 5th. we got a beautiful conjunction going on, just before the Sun rises look to the SE. to see a crescent Moon, Mercury and Venus all huddled together, perfect photo op, I'll be ready weather permitting with my camera.
Below is my most current Sunset image as an, that's right an animated gif.